The PDCA cycle is a method for making changes to work processes and improving standards. The letters PDCA stand for Plan, Do, Check, and Act. The PDCA cycle is employed by people at many levels of an organization. In many ways, the PDCA cycle is a great introduction to Lean manufacturing. Like all Lean methodologies, The PDCA cycle pushes production toward efficiency and strives to make processes better. Leaders use it to improve and check in on standard work procedures, teams can use it during a kaizen event to make changes, and managers might use it after a gemba walk to try out improvement suggestions.
During the 4 phases of the PDCA cycle, people do the following:
- Plan: Assess the current state and look for improvements. If a problem exists, examine it in detail. Develop possible solutions and means of execution. In this phase, gather as much information as possible to make informed decisions about how to proceed.
- Do: Try out the plans, making sure everyone involved understands the changes. This implementation phase is key to getting accurate results.
- Check: Follow up to see how effective the changes are. Spend some time comparing the new state to how things were previously
- Act: If the changes work, continue using them and make them the new standard. This will be the new point of reference for future PDCA cycles.